I Read A 1972 Issue Of Vogue—Here's What Women Were Talking About Then

By Melody Rose··  8 min read
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Have you ever wondered what women’s media was focused on “back in the day”? What fashion trends were in style? What beauty secrets women swore by? Which powerhouse women made it to the cover? And what stories were contained in the predominantly black and white pages?

Well, I became so curious myself that I did some digging and got my hands on a vintage edition of Vogue from February 1972. While it cost me more than the 75 cents it would have back then, it was still a thrilling luxury to receive in the mail. Here’s what I found inside.

On the Cover, Model Karen Graham

We all know the cover model of any major print magazine is the spotlight of the edition! On the front of this issue was none other than the stunning Karen Graham sporting a beautiful baby pink cloche hat, paired with an elegant matching scarf, and emerald stud earrings placed delicately in a gold setting (which made her natural green eyes sparkle, might I add). 

This Mississippi native was a pioneer for Estée Lauder, the beauty empire of New York City, as she became the face of the brand in 1970 and exclusively held the title until 1985. Before her modeling debut with Estée Lauder began, Karen attended the University of Mississippi where she studied French. Right after college, she moved to New York City to pursue a career as a French-language high school teacher. That was, until she met modeling agency owner Eileen Ford by chance while shopping in Manhattan one day. With the exchange of business cards, the rest was history. Karen went on to become one of the leading supermodels of her time.

After resigning from her modeling career in 1985 when she turned 40, Karen began following her passion for fly fishing. She had started fly fishing in the 1970s and fell in love with it. Since her previous lifestyle was so hectic with modeling, she didn’t have the chance to dedicate too much time to fishing aside from it being a hobby. Once the space opened up, that was the first thing she did. In fact, she became a school operator and instructor when she co-founded Fly Fishing with Bert and Karen. She then made a comeback with Estée Lauder in 1999 for a “Resilience Lift” face cream and appeared on a few seasons of ESPN2’s fishing series In Search of Fly Water. Today at age 77, she resides in North Carolina.

Beauty Tips and Tricks from 1972

Of course, we all want to know what these classic beauties were doing to master the balance of looking so sexy, feminine, and sophisticated…effortlessly. Which had me flipping feverishly over to the section with the headline “21 Quick Tricks to Make The Most of Your Looks.” Some we still hear about and uphold today, while others I had never heard of before…and were honestly kind of strange!

Here’s a highlight of the ones that stood out most so you know which tried and true practices to keep in your routine (and maybe what not to add).

3 Tips for Today

  • Say it with a smile: “The most potent of all beauty stratagems is your smile. It warms, it encourages, it thrusts sweetly to the heart. It also causes you to appear instantly prettier. A smile even makes your voice more persuasive.”

  • Legend of cheeky hollow: “To give you the look of beautiful bones, try sucking in your cheeks and then shade what’s indented with a brownish blusher...Darkening is thinning.”

  • Pow now: “The fast energizer for the four-o'clock droop could be a chocolate mint. The mint is a fresh taste, the chocolate ups the energy.”

3 Tips of Yesterday

  • Instant diet: “Take an antacid to put down food craving. Some doctors say it absorbs the acid that triggers hunger pangs. Alka-Seltzer on the rocks with a twist is a pleasant way, or have a tablet-type if you’re on the go.”

  • Hair spares: “Find a place for wigs and hairpieces in your bathroom where the steamy atmosphere keeps them fresh and bouncy and ready for action.”

  • Don’t wait for double trouble: “This Yoga exercise can help to keep your chin line taut and tidy: Try to touch the end of your nose with the tip of your tongue 20 times each day. Well worth the effort.”

Vogue’s Point of View on Fashion Trends

In this edition, Vogue shared its point of view on cutting-edge fashion trends to fit the everyday lifestyle for city women of the ‘70s, supported with 75 real-life photos and descriptions. Activities for the women of New York during that time included: shopping at the supermarket, attending Parents’ Day at their child’s school, Women’s Political Caucus meetings, the Junior League, Friends of the Earth (an environmental charity), dinner at home or dinner at Elmo’s, and going to the movie theater. 

Adjectives like “sportsy,” “luxe-y,” and “nonchalant” described their spring style sense.

With adjectives like “sportsy,” “luxe-y,” and “nonchalant” to describe their spring style sense, a few select pieces became major statements. Such staples of this fashion movement included cloche hats, feminine tailor-fitted suits, shorter wispier hair, “makeup-makeup,” the colors white, beige and navy, plaid patterns, a chopped coat to fingertip length, shoes that lifted the entire silhouette, and “fluid fabrics” which would “make the gesture of simply leaning into a conversation the most seductive sight on earth.” For evening attire, they encouraged a backless, down to the ankles dress as an “alluring” choice.

In the words of Vogue: “If you’ve ever skipped a spring collection on the grounds that spring is a pastel version of fall: Don’t this year – you’ll hate yourself in the morning. We haven’t just turned the corner of a season. We’ve turned a corner – period.”

Cultural Snapshot: Liberating the Queen in Every Woman

Perhaps my favorite part was a one-page spread written by the late John Gruen, a well-known art critic, which is deeply eloquent and poetic about the definition of woman versus the “queen,” as well as the impactful, yet devastating, demands this role could place on a woman’s shoulders. 

At the time there was a focus in the entertainment industry on this power shift. In the opening sentence of his piece, Gruen wrote, “Woman as sovereign, as ruler, as a majestic force and presence has suddenly become the idee fixe of the entertainment world. In theater, opera, film and television, woman as queen is celebrated with all the pomp and circumstance befitting her crowned head and royal station. The question is why?”

Gruen believed that in America this was paving the way for “the first female President.” He goes on to state the admiration held for the queen yet the implications it could have for the dynamics of a traditional marriage. 

“Today, the idea of a woman as a self-sufficient, matriarchal being relieves the man of certain major responsibilities, while concurrently placing him in a subservient, quasi-threatened role,” he wrote. “This notion alone presents man with the challenge of preserving his maleness in the face of female authority.” He believed that from a man’s point of view, the queen was “more symbol than woman.”

In addition, he goes on to describe what the role of queen would come to mean for women: “No doubt, great lessons in courage, independence, and strength. A queen who rules alone, beset by political machinations, engaged in wars, in personal conflicts, beleaguered by intrigue, jealousy, threats upon her life or country, is indeed a woman of overwhelming strength – and loneliness. The burdens of her responsibilities lie heavy upon her magnificently groomed head and shoulders.”

A queen who rules alone is indeed a woman of overwhelming strength – and loneliness.

With adoration of both woman and queen, Gruen draws upon the historical shadows of the queen archetype – loneliness, destruction, and public downfall. He concludes, “It is difficult to be queen. It is difficult to be woman. Perhaps the revival of interest in the reigning female monarch is to make these parallels felt. But it would seem that today it is far more glorious to be a woman than a queen.”

Due to the queen's secret weapon of composure, he believes both men and women can draw upon her inspiring influence for matters of “strength, wisdom and inner nobility in regards to treating and handling authority. As the future of anyone’s potential greatness depends on it.”

This article was certainly an interesting take and one of reflection regarding modern-day parallels. It’s fascinating to look back to the turning of the tides and read an analysis of femininity versus masculinity through the lens of the beginning of the cultural shift. I think it’s true that both energies in their fullness play a significant role in balancing one another in relationships, connection, and society, and I believe we see much of the “loneliness” shadow side of the queen happening with the current feminist ideals and the imbalance of roles with the shunning of “masculinity” as toxic. I loved this in-depth review of a queen’s awe-striking qualities equally paired with the shadows many don’t see in the highlights of taking the throne.

Closing Thoughts

This was certainly an experience to dive into – enchanting and whimsical, yet equally historic and revolutionary. I absolutely adored the poise and elegance upheld with every turn of the page. And the full article of the queen archetype nearly wrote itself into my heart. It makes me wonder where femininity is headed next in the generations to come. When a curious girl buys a vintage edition of Vogue from 2022, what will she find? What will culture be like then? Will true feminine essence reign again? The question stands. Time will answer.

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